It’s tempting to sit back when you think a job is complete, and sink into a well of happy memories and nostalgia. Having recently updated myself on the current situation in Syria, what was bad news 8 weeks ago when I arrived in NZ, is now simply appalling. One million displaced people, living in tent cities across borders, thousands of orphaned children, and more than 60,000 fatalities…..in a civil conflict that the rest of the world watches from the touchline.
The message has to get out. People have asked me lots of searching questions in the Antipodes. Awareness of the Syrian civil war needs to be spread further.
My job may appear to be complete (from the cycling point of view), but the real work is only just starting.
Back in the UK, I will be offering to visit groups and associations with an illustrated presentation of my 2,500 mile venture. I will make no personal charge for the talk, but will happily receive a donation for the Children in Syria Appeal. I sincerely want funds to continue flowing into this cause. We can’t stand by and hope that a solution will magically appear on the horizon. Our ‘grain of sand’, however small, will be of immeasurable importance.
If you know of any group that would welcome me as a visiting speaker, please get the message out by word of mouth, email, or sharing on Facebook or Twitter.
Thank you in advance.
And do give them the link to this blog, so they can get a flavour of what it’s all about.
Milton to Moruya: 87km (55m)
Kit dried, limbs rested, body fed, humour restored….I simply could not find a convincing reason to ask the Doc for a ‘sickie’….so on the saddle I climbed, dressed for all the Aussie elements could throw at me. The weather brightened, and off came the layers one by one.
Being the (horti)cultural guy that I am, I began to notice some of the roadside vegetation
…and I know at least one botanist who might be impressed. But then I was mightily glad I didn’t have to climb this hill
…because I’m sure it would have crucified me. So many names of places are suggestive of some significant event of the past, and some are clearly signed as to be in no doubt about their importance
…but when I asked about the chances of becoming an instant millionaire, if I were to spend an hour panning for gold, I was told I should have come in 1850!
Today’s route, because of the changing weather, has been solidly on the Princes Highway, a busy holiday and commercial route, which crosses the lower slopes of the Great Dividing Range…..mountains which separate the outback from the coastal area.
This unequivocally means that you have to cross dozens of creeks in a day, and creeks always flow down steep ravines from the mountains……ergo, I have just spent the whole day descending and climbing back out of deep ravines. OK, I suppose the legs needed a bit more climbing practice, and I know I’m not going to get your sympathy…..:-(
But I do like to be stopped by ladies on the highway, especially when they thrust a $40 bill into my hand.
And when I checked into a campsite, the warden gave me $6 back from my pitch fee as a donation. The above family greeted me as I put up the tent, he offered me a ‘stubbie’ (can of beer), gave me $10 for the charity, and said I could have a ‘spa’ (hot-tub) in their cabin in the morning. People’s generosity continues to astound me, and I am the grateful recipient of it.
I’m not sure the following observation is significant, but several Aussies have photographed the sign on the bike, suggesting they would like to donate online. I, for one, will be watching this space.
Children in Syria Appeal: http://www.justgiving.com/Frank-Burns1
My hosts in Invercargill, Cecily & John Mesman, had spoilt me rotten; and Marie Teuwen, President of the Southland branch of Save the Children, had organised a welcome fit for a hero (and I’m only a pedal-twiddling lycra lout). It was sad to leave their company, but the show had to go on.
A combination of one of these….
and one of these got me from the toe of NZ, via Wellington and across the Tasman Sea, to Sydney where once again (once the bike was reassembled) I was able to display this
to give the Aussies I encounter an opportunity to match (or even outstrip) the generosity of the Kiwis. No sooner had I set wheel outside the airport, I knew I needed local help to get across the city. A passing cyclist (and if he reads this, a big “thank you”) stopped and very patiently mapped out a route for me, which got me to the district I needed. That was brilliant. Then a couple of iPhone toting 20 somethings opened up Googlemaps and finalised the fine detail. (Of course, I could have done this for myself, but it’s much more fun asking others!).
I had to race against the fading light (sunset is over an hour earlier than in NZ) across a city that has some notoriously unfriendly cycling streets, but before the light disappeared I eventually found Dee Read’s lovely old wooden cottage
and she gave me the warmest of welcomes. Thank you, Dee! This encounter happened through the networking power of Facebook, where a mutual friend had shared details with her own lists of friends (thank you Anne!). I thought I didn’t know Dee, until she looked at me and said she’d met me before somewhere.
Well, to cut a long story short, both her children had attended Kimbolton School in the 1990s, and I had taught one of them for a year!
It is a cliche, but it’s true…..it’s an unnervingly small world.
I will spend today unapologetically being a Sydney tourist, I have a (cheapish) ticket for Il Trovatore at the Opera House, and I’m meeting up with Richard Tulloch (another blogging friend) for a bushtucker lunch, during his break from drama rehearsals at Sydney University.
It promises to be a fascinating day.
Children in Syria Appeal: http://www.justgiving.com/Frank-Burns1
Invercargill is crawling with journalists. They jump out of the bushes and catch you when your guard is down. Then I discovered there is a school of journalism in the local Polytechnic, SIT (Southland Institute of Technology), and all the students are out there hungry for a good story.
Before I set off to complete the final 30km to my destination, I had an appointment at the studios of Cue TV (www.cuetv.co.nz) where I was interviewed by Margot Sutherland, and then followed by a cameraman for some action shots on the road to Bluff. Didn’t know whether to wave at the camera or simply look as if I was suffering with the strenuous effort…… chose the latter ‘cos I didn’t want people to think I was actually enjoying myself!
So I eventually get to Bluff (the Land’s End of NZ) expecting to quietly take a few photos and then disappear to Stewart Island. But no……my gracious hosts in Invercargill, Marie, Bryan and Cecily, had made the journey down to be my welcoming party, and to join the little celebration of my completion of the journey.
No sooner had the ritual photos been taken, but another journalist jumped from behind a bush clasping his voice recorder. He was a radio presenter from MoreFM, he rattled off a number of questions for which (of course) I had well rehearsed answers, then he amiably questioned the distance I had covered. Unlike the sign on my bike, the signpost said that Cape Reinga was only 1400km away, not the nearly 3000km I had covered. I politely pointed out that 1400km is as the crow flies, and that NZ roads were never designed for avian migration…….and anyway, why would anyone want to take the shortest route? For me, there were too many fascinating diversions.
If you look carefully, you might see that London is over 18000km away……but again, that’s for the crows. But they generally don’t stop off in Singapore to re-fuel.
I am now on Stewart Island, a one hour high speed catamaran journey from the mainland, ready to spend 36 hours chilling out and eating a bit more of the above.
But let me finish with a few more examples of Kiwi generosity: a couple overtook me on the road to Bluff, pulled over and donated $10; a gentleman gave me another $10 as I was having photos taken beneath the signposts; on Stewart Island, as I was trying to negotiate a discount on my pitch for 2 nights, David (who was accompanying a group of deer hunters) stepped forward and paid my $40 bill as a donation. Only in New Zealand………..
When I get to Australia, I’ll tell all the Aussies just how generous the Kiwis have been……..and they’ll all be so hopping mad that their hands will inexplicably go deeper into their pockets and purses :0) Wouldn’t that be great for the Children in Syria Appeal?
Queenstown to Mossburn 122km (75m)
After sharing a final meal with my ABC friends from California,
we hugged each other farewell. We were going in different directions, but sharing their company over the last 4 days has been very special. Bob has to fly home to hold the hand of his dying father, and it looks as if their homeward route through S America is now in jeopardy. But priorities are not in doubt.
I tentatively loaded the bike this morning, gingerly wobbled down the first hill, then decided I really needed a substantial breakfast roll (mysteriously called an OTR) and a huge flat white coffee before committing myself
My route into the northern reaches of Southland
introduced me to the delights of Kiwi honeys
but some were products from the bees that might feature more correctly in a beauty parlour
but I was particularly taken by the Manuka honeys, and especially by this
which is a honey exclusively from tree bees, that feed on the bark of trees. And a small jar just happened to fit in the barbag :0)
As I meandered along the edge of Lake Wakatipu, a truck towing a trailer pulled over in front of me, a hand waving me to slow down. Peter thrust $20 in my hand, said he would see me in Bluff, and that he knew a lot of people in the area. I am eagerly mystified!
A little later sitting in a roadside cafe, a German couple came in with a little baby and sat at a table close by. After a few minutes, Florian turned to me with his laptop open, and his first words to me were: “I’ve just put some money on your website!” I was completely taken by surprise……. He had obviously seen the notice on my bike, and simply made a spontaneous contribution without asking me anything about my venture. We chatted at length, and I learned they were on a fly fishing holiday…..and they write a blog about it (in English too): http://www.theflyfishingfamily.blogspot.com
Oh and by the way, the bike behaved itself impeccably today, obviously fearing the ultimate sanction: that of being chucked on the scrap heap!
So I put up my tent in a quiet remote campsite with an easy mind…….
Thank you to everyone who has generously donated to the Children in Syria Appeal. We keep hitting new targets as people continue to respond magnanimously to the cause.
Raising money for a charitable cause is a slow cumulative process, but very satisfying nevertheless. People donate spontaneously by putting a hand in purse or pocket and giving loose change (sometimes referred to as shrapnel).
Sometimes people go away to think about it, and a donation arrives by cheque or banknotes.
Others, happy to use a credit card, will go to an online giving site and frequently donate substantial amounts. For the Children in Syria Appeal we’ve seen donations of
£100 and £150 ……. but when I saw one recently for £1000, I was simply left stunned.
A huge thank you to Ian! Your kindness will have a massive impact on the welfare of refugee children.
In the meantime, what does this sign tell me? Massive hill, yes, but definitely not downhill!